That is until last week. After all of my classes were done for the day, my stomach let me know I required food fast by making sounds like a dying whale. But where would I find food to satisfy my needs?
I left campus and headed downtown into San Marcos. That’s when I almost literally, tripped over a sign displaying Gil’s Daily Burger Specials right outside their tiny storefront. Hmm, why not? I do love burgers, after all.
As soon as I stepped through the single door, I knew I’d made a great decision. Gil’s Broiler, as I learned, is a San Marcos landmark. This burger spot is the oldest restaurant in the city; open since the late 1940’s.
While there have been obvious upgrades - including a PA system used to call your name when your food is ready, and a sound system that pumps music throughout the small restaurant - the interior reflects the history it’s lived through.
I became immediately excited, but could only oogle for so long before the dying whale that was living in my stomach screamed again. I walked up to the ordering counter and decided on a quarter pound burger with all the fixin’s (lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, pickles) but instead of having mayo that comes standard, I opted for mustard. I also ordered regular French fries and a fountain drink. After paying, I found a seat at one of the booths in the narrow dining area.
While I waited, I was afforded the opportunity to take a quick look around. This place was filled with some neat memorabilia from the original restaurant, including signs for five-cent burgers. Can you imagine? Five cents? What can five cents get you today besides…. Nothing?
Anyway, I heard my name called over the PA system and I excitedly trotted to the counter, retrieved my order and brought it back to the table. Yeah, I tend to semi-run places… a lot. It’s a little weird, and that’s OK.
I unwrapped my burger from the butcher paper, and laid it out on the table. It was beautiful. The meat was charbroiled and had a dark crust around the exterior. This is my favorite kind of burger. There’s something truly special about super fresh burgers that have been charbroiled. They take on a different texture and flavor that’s a little bit hard to describe, but I’ll go on ahead and try.
The meat was sultry and smoky, crispy and juicy, dark and decadently greasy. Yep, that about sums it up. Man it was good…
The fries were so salty and crispy on the outside and so fluffy on the inside that I almost died. They were so tasty!!
When I finished my meal, I could totally see how this place has stuck around for over sixty years. After licking my fingers clean of fry salt, I stood to throw my trash away, but something caught my eye. A City of San Marcos proclamation was mounted to the wall, declaring the third week of November as Manske Roll Week.
What? Are you serious? OK, I HAD to know what a Manske Roll was, immediately. The whole restaurant is plastered with signs about it, and the place claims to make fresh Manske Rolls daily… what in the world is this thing?
I walked up to the ordering counter again, and this time, Gil’s Broiler owner Ruben Becerra greeted me. Awesome. I asked him what in the heck a Manske Roll was, and instead of some bland description, he let me have one to taste. WOO HOO! Best day ever.
Once my first hot, fresh and gooey Manske Roll was in my hands, I took it back down to my booth and just sat in awe. Basically, “The Manske Roll is [a] plump, buttery cinnamon roll” which has been featured at Gil’s Broiler since 1949, according to The San Marcos Mercury.
“The Manske Roll was a favorite of President Lyndon Baines Johnson. It has served as treat for soldiers and even has a fan in country music giant George Strait. Manske Rolls, for many San Marcans and Texas State students, continue to be a legendary and iconic area treat.”
On with the show! My first bite was so amazing… It was WAY better than your run of the mill cinnamon roll, and had a really wonderful texture. It was both fluffy AND gooey, but completely and wholly mind altering. I fell in love.
That’s when, as if on cue, a White Stripes song came over the sound system with a lyric that seemed appropriate: “Fall is here, hear the yell/Back to school, ring the bell/Brand new shoes, walking blues/Climb the fence, books and pens/I can tell that we are gonna be friends/I can tell that we are gonna be friends.”
I closed my eyes and smiled so big, finished my last bite of the sweet, ooey-gooey and oh so delectable Manske Roll. I can tell this is going to be a long and lasting friendship.
Want to go?
328 N. LBJ, San Marcos, TX 78666
Want to call?
When to go:
Monday - Sunday, 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.